Formerly Dunham & Froese, Covert Farms wines are better than ever

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Blink twice and you’d miss it—the sandwich board on the side of Highway 97, just outside Oliver in the south Okanagan. It said Dunham & Froese Estate Winery the last time I drove by. Now it probably says Covert Farms Family Estate, since the lovely little farm and winery has changed its name to honour the farm’s founder, George Covert, who came to the south Okanagan from California some 50 years ago to grow vegetables and fruit, including grapes.

Under the Dunham & Froese label, the owners/growers/winemakers made several vintages of outstanding wines, in particular the Amicitia blends, red and white, that delighted the cognoscenti who managed to find the winery’s postage-stamp-size shop.

Happily, they’ve retained the Amicitia name and, if anything, the wines so identified are better than ever, especially the red. Recently, the first three wines under the Covert Farms label came to my attention, and into my glass. Nothing for it but to assemble some old D & F fans and see what the new livery offered. All the wines are made from organically grown grapes and are available in very limited quantities from private or VQA stores, as well as the winery itself.

Covert Farms Family Estate Odie n/v ($26.99)
The new sparkling wine from the estate is made from Pinot Blanc by the traditional French méthode champenoise. Odie was the family dog, “a bundle of life and sparkle.” You might taste an abundance of apple upon your first sip of this ultra-clean and crisp, super-fresh, nicely dry bit of bubble. The panel I shared it with felt it was one of the best B.C. sparklers they’d tasted. A wine to sip on its own or pour with appetizers or desserts. A gorgeous wine and well priced. Unfortunately, the production was a bit stingy: 150 cases, so you’ll only find it in private stores or at the winery.

There are many sparkling wines made in the Okanagan; Odie leaps immediately into the top 10. Maybe even the top three!

Covert Farms Family Estate MDC 2010 ($19.99)
This gorgeous red blend (50 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 25 percent Syrah, 25 percent Zinfandel) is a bargain; my bottle was numbered 3,311, so I take it there was a good—it’s all relative, of course!—supply made. MDC is Michael Dunham Covert, “who loved Cabernet Sauvignon”. That’s very much in evidence in this handsome blend; the splash of Zinfandel adds an intriguing bit of backbone and spice. A big bouquet of fresh blueberries and ripe blackberries with “notes of violets and baking spices” delights the nose. The finish is rich with fruit and doesn’t disappear for days, so it seems. Quoting the winemaker again: “perfect setting: a smoking grill and a horde of healthy appetites”.

Covert Farms family Estate Amicitia 2009 ($25.99)
This “friendly” red is a clever and flavourful mix of Cabernet Sauvignon (47 percent), Cabernet Franc (19 percent), Syrah (12 percent), Petit Verdot (9 percent), Malbec (8 percent), Merlot (4 percent), and a tiny splash of Zinfandel (1 percent), making it almost a Meritage. It’s a fabulous dinner red, especially for meat dishes. My bottle was numbered 5,664, so there’s likely a fair bit still about. From the winemaker: “The wines have pure and natural flavours that emulate their sage and grassland origins,” calling forth “rich, warm notes of raisins, hazelnuts and stewed cherries”. I also like this back-label observation: “You, me and a rib-eye makes three.”

Gray Monk Latitude 50 White ($13.99)
There being no white, save Odie, the sparkler, in the box of Covert wines that reached me recently, here’s an old favourite white blend from a favourite vineyard, dressed up in new garb. The former bottle label was created 20 years ago, and this remains the number-one-selling blended VQA wine in B.C., according to the agent. The tasty mix contains Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Auxerrois. Latitude 50 White is certainly a terrific value at the price and is widely available in B.C. LDB stores. Bold graphics in black and white over a lemon-yellow label identify ideal picnic wine (trust me, picnic season will come!) with big, bright fruit. Latitude 50 red and rosé will appear with new livery in the spring/summer release season.

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